Art fair ­offers more than sales

Unframed will include installations by Liza Grobler, Mary Sibande and Katharine de Villiers. (Madelene Cronje)

Unframed will include installations by Liza Grobler, Mary Sibande and Katharine de Villiers. (Madelene Cronje)

Art fairs, as fancy and glamorous as they seem, are annual sobering reminders that art, which is fondly framed as having “cultural value”, is really a product for the art market.

South Africa’s art economy is lucrative, drawing international buyers, collectors and curators interested in the value of trading and collecting African art.

Tumelo Mosaka — after more than a decade of working outside the country, mostly as an independent curator, with institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Krannert Art Museum in Illinois — returns to South Africa to curate the fifth Cape Town Art Fair.

Although it consists mostly of gallery booths, this year’s programme includes Tomorrows/Today, a group show of African contemporary artists, and Unframed, a section of the fair dedicated to artists for large-scale, interactive works.
Unframed will include installations by Liza Grobler, Mary Sibande and Katharine de Villiers — and Michael Linders’s one-person jumping castle, which might offer some playful, if anti-
dotal release and a moment to consider the loneliness of contemporary existence.

This might not be necessary though because this year’s fair includes, for the first time, the Digital platform reading lounge, which will be a space for viewers to delve into online publications such as Contemporary And, Africa is a Country and Artnet.

In terms of hard copy, we can expect interest in the new art writing platform Adjective when they release their first print edition and promise to add some fun (and social commentary) to the fair.

The fair’s programme of talks, performances and screenings includes art historians, artists, writers and collectors, including curators Gabi Ngcobo and Élise Atangana who will lead a discussion on curating contemporary African art.

The Cape Town Art Fair runs from Friday February 17 to Sunday February 19 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Visit capetownartfair.co.za